The 2nd race in the Spartan U.S. National Series took place today in Saraland, Alabama. Saraland, a town just shy of 15,000 people, is located in the southwest corner of Alabama. Rains were expected the week of the race, which would have created a much muddier experience. However, they held off and gave the athletes a mostly dry course, with some intermittent swamp and dirt. The top men were all very close together in the first 2 miles with Veejay Jones leading a pack of Ryans in Kempson, Woods, and Atkins. All of the lead men hit The Spear except for Ryan Woods. Woods was looking to finish strong to keep his National Series Championship hopes alive after last week’s now infamous 12th place finish. As scores of men passed him, he banged out 30 burpees as quickly as possible.
Shortly after mile 3, The top men began to spread out around Bender. VeeJay Jones, put the pedal down and took a 30 second lead on Kempson and Atkins, who were another 30-45 seconds ahead of Robert Killian, Ryan Kent, and Tyler Veerman.
The podium was all but decided in the last couple of miles of the race. VeeJay was not going to fail anything and was on his way to his first victory of the series and 20th all-time victory at Spartan Races. Ryan Kempson did everything he could to hold off Atkins, but the stronger Atkins closed the gap at the Bucket Brigade, passed Kempson on The Beater, then put him away at The Sandbag. Robert Killian finished 30 seconds back of Kempson, and 5 seconds ahead of Ryan Kent. Ryan Woods, perhaps the fastest athlete in the sport right now, made his way back the best he could, but ran out of real estate finishing in 7th, just ahead of Brakken Kraker and behind Tyler Veerman.
Ryan Kempson is currently leading the USNS Points Series with 540 points, just 12 points ahead of Atkins. Some might say Atkins is in the driver’s seat with Seattle, Big Bear and Utah as the remaining races in the series. Those races tend to favor Atkins who consistently performs well at races longer than 2 hours and races with significant elevation. However, Cody Moat and/or Hobie Call may show up at either of those races and throw a monkey wrench into the points system.
On the women’s side, today’s podium was decided early with Nicole Mericle winning again in commanding fashion. She led from gun to tape for her 2nd win in a row in this series. Lindsay Webster and Nicole ran together for the first 3 and a half miles. Shortly after, Nicole dropped the hammer on the open sections to pull ahead which would lead to a win 1 minute a 9 seconds ahead of Webster. Rebecca Hammond finished in 3rd almost 2 whole minutes back.
Nicole Mericle, who has won the 3-kilometer course two years in a row at the OCR World Championships, is currently in the lead for the US Championship series with 600 points, 72 points ahead of Lindsay Webster. Rebecca Hammond has a solid lock on 3rd place in the points series. She finished 4th last week, just one second behind Rose Wetzel. Wetzel, making her way back from “OCR maternity leave”, was a disappointing 10th after missing her spear throw early. Like Woods, failing that obstacle in the first 2 miles put her in a deep hole, of which she could not recover. Alyssa Hawley ran a solid race to finish 4th almost 3 minutes ahead of Tia Regan. Rea Kolbl was next in 6th. Followed by Leigh Anne Wasteney, Faye Stenning and Natalie Miano. All of those women were top 10 in Jacksonville, making 4th-10th wide open for the US Championship Series with 3 races to go.
--Story By Matt B. Davis. Matt has been racing and covering OCR since 2012 and is the editor of Obstacle Racing Media.
Complete race results here.